Here in the west, we’ve become familiar with the “Big 3” Japanese Bonsai Potters: Tofukuji, Yusen, and Kozan. But our familiarity with these potters would have been impossible without Heian Koso(平安香艸 or 香草), who made these potters famous in Japan in the 1960s and 70s. Koso, whose real name was Choso Kawai(河合蔦蔵), was a bonsai heavyweight in his time, the third generation proprietor at Koso-En, from 1938, in Kansai, which he made famous as its Bonsai master. The Nursery, founded in 1877, still operates today, with three locations, including one in Omiya and a Bonsai farm outside of Kyoto. The Kiln at the nursery was started by another great heavyweight, Wakamatsu Aiso, contempory and friend of Heian Tofukuji, both of whom were part of a group of potters that trained Heian Koso.
Heian Koso is well known for his Kiyomizu painted porcelain pieces, as well as glazed and unglazed pots. One can readily see the influence of Yusen, Tofukuji, Kozan, and Aiso in his work. In addition to making these Japanese potters famous, he is also often credited with helping make bonsai pottery a sustainable profession in Japan, as before he popularized Japanese pottery, it was impossible to earn a living making bonsai pottery alone. Let’s take a look at his work.
A blue painted porcelain round from my collection. Typical of Koso’s painted pots, which are most commonly seen in 9 or 12 cm. There are excellent details and fine brushwork to the painting.
A pair of matching rectangles in red and blue. Really nice detail to the two figures, and the slight differences between the paintings show that it was painted free hand, not with a stencil.
A red painted piece with pine tree and ship.
Another sometsuke blue pot, this one showing some kanji, perhaps a poem or a description of the scene.
A rectangle with window painted landscape. Really nice far view scene, and really dark indigo color.
A common motif in bonsai pottery painting, and Japanese art in general: Choju-giga, anthropomorphic animals from old handscroll paintings. This one depicts the contest between the rabbit and the frog.
The original scroll, ink on paper, from the 12th century, by Kozan-Ji.
A unique 8 sided pot, shown more for Koso’s versatile clay work than the painting.
Yellow ground porcelain with enameled chrysanthemums. A very nice example of this style.
A fine rectangle porcelain pot with overglaze blue net design. I really like this piece, simple and classical, not too showy.
A simple glazed round that characterizes much of Koso’s glazed pots.
A mostly unglazed cascade pot, with interesting glaze topper.
A matched quintet of single color glazed rounds. Very clean, pure, bright colors.
And we’ll finish up today with a handmade turkey-glaze round crackle. There’s just enough wonkiness to the rim, a really nice piece!
i can’t help but see an owl on the foot of the first pot
Interesting note Dedrick! Had that one for about a year and never noticed the eyes peeking back at me!